By Jeff Zimmerman
Photos: Tiffany Syfan
At 27, super middleweight Rob Brant (22-0, 15 KOs) is undefeated and training partners with two world champions, Errol Spence Jr. and Jermell Charlo, out of the R&R Boxing Club in Dallas, Texas, yet he still fights under the radar and is relatively unknown to most boxing fans.
However, that could all change when he treks across the globe in what could be his breakout fight when he takes on former two-time world champion Juergen Braehmer (48-3, 35 KOs) in the super middleweight quarterfinal as part of the World Boxing Super Series in Brahemer’s hometown of Schwerin, Germany no less on Friday.
Brant, well spoken, humble, yet confident, has no problem going overseas for the biggest fight of his career to date. After all, he helped Spence Jr. get ready to win the IBF welterweight belt against Kell Brook in Sheffield, England, Brook’s hometown earlier this year. The big difference, though, that was for a world title and Spence Jr. was already a feared fighter and considered on the verge of greatness.
But Brant, like Spence Jr., is willing to go overseas against a tough opponent where everyone is against you.
“I’m comfortable going into his backyard. It’s something that everyone who wants to be a champion has to experience, a hostile territory, so I’m really excited for it. Knowing Braehmer, it truly is one of those crossroad fights. He’s a guy going towards 38 years old, toward the end of his career, myself being a guy just on the cusp of being noticed, of being a well-known boxer myself. It’s one of those classics, out with the old and in with the new old style of fights,” Brant stated.
It’s not like Brant hasn’t had big moments either. He has had showcase fights on ESPN and Showtime displaying superb knockout power that gets fight fans excited, but for some reason it hasn’t generated the buzz around him you would think. Brant is not a self-promoter, nor is he tied to the ultimate deal maker Al Haymon like Spence Jr. and Charlo. He is also not the type to call out other fighters via social media or cause a stir like many fighters do today.
“It’s really not who I am. I love boxing, I love the sport of it. If I can do all the boxing with minimal fame, it’s a job for me. I like to do the job, I do boxing for me, for my own personal goals, my own personal achievements. That’s really what I look forward to, of course the checks are nice too when you get to that upper level.”
Brant added, “For me, when I first started off, I never said I want to be the best in Minnesota, I want to be the best in Texas. I want to be the best in my weight division in the world. So that’s what I am striving for, it’s more of a personal goal than something I want to boast for everyone else and to have a look at me type of thing. Boxing fans have very short memories, what can you do for me now mentality. So I try and not get too caught up in when they are speaking very highly or right now when you are so under the radar that they don’t give you a chance. It doesn’t really bother me one way or the other. I do this for me and not for everybody else.”
Brant could look no further than his trainer, Derrick James, when it comes to getting your due credit. James has guided both Spence Jr. and Charlo to world titles in an impressive fashion, but it wasn’t until Charlo dismantled one of boxing’s top young prospects Erickson Lubin in the first round with one punch a week ago, that people are now suggesting James should be trainer of the year. James has proven his greatness as a trainer long ago, but he is finally getting the praise he widely deserves.
He groomed Spence Jr. from the amateurs to one of boxing’s biggest stars and is work with Charlo is finally getting noticed, especially after the Lubin fight, but his work with an unknown quantity like Brant could eventually turn out to be his biggest accomplishment if he could help Brant win a world title. James is not worried about personal accolades, however, he only cares about making his fighters the best they can be.
“We have a great team, great camp, just here to help everybody win and rise to the top. Regardless of what Rob has done or what he is doing, it’s all about the Rob Brant that shows up in October, that’s what we are focused on. He has a great group of core brothers helping him get ready, Errol Spence, Jermell Charlo and we are all pushing each other and focusing on trying to help everybody get better.”
Brant also knows his time is coming.
“It’s kind of one of those things, you just got to wait your turn almost. I am on the cusp right now. You’re looking for those breakout fights like in this World Boxing Super Series that could really make you a household name. What makes you a recognizable name, a recognizable fighter is the opposition you’re in with. Some people come out of the amateurs and they are well accomplished and people are looking for them right out of the gate. There are other people that are on the back of your mind but they are waiting for that big fight, waiting to break out, to really prove yourself.”
Added Brant, “So I am waiting for that moment that I can prove myself, that’s what people are waiting to see. I think I will be a lot more recognized, make me maybe a little more legitimate in the casual boxing fans eyes.”
James also believes this fight with Braehmer is the type of fight Brant needs to get to the next level.
“These are the fights and the victories that he needs to help him be super successful and this is the breakout show, the breakout tournament, this is what he needs exactly so I am just happy about it. It’s his turn. He watches his stablemates, his brothers do well and both become world champions and that can only be an inspiration for him, more gas, more fuel to the fire that he has and I think that watching them become champ and training with them to help them become champ helps him, say listen, I can do it too. That’s a great thing.”
Brant has taken his game to new heights after hooking up with James after moving from Minnesota about four years ago.
“It’s a completely different level. To say it brings you up a level would be kind of downplaying it. It almost brings you to a different sport. It opens your eyes to things you didn’t really understand or realize before. It’s not just throwing punches. Derrick and I have discussed many times boxing is full of a lot of trainers, very few teachers. He’s a teacher of boxing so when we are in there working out, it is not something where he is just getting me into shape, he is teaching me boxing, teaching me situational awareness, things like that. To say it brings it to a different level is a definite understatement.
Brant continued, “My boxing IQ has grown exponentially since I have been in Texas almost 4 years.”
It can’t hurt to work with one of boxing’s pound for pound best in Errol Spence Jr. on a weekly basis.
“You learn your mistakes. A lot of guys don’t really realize some of their holes until they get caught in fights, things like that. Working with a guy like EJ he sees everything. So, every opening that you have he will attack it. So, doing that in sparring and then going into a fight makes you much more secure in your defense and allows you to go forward and throw those power punches because you know you’re going to be secure in certain spots. Now you’re making intelligent decisions to hit and not get hit.
By no means is Brant taking Braehmer lightly even with the caliber of sparring he gets at the R&R Boxing Club in Dallas under James.
“He’s got 51 fights, all of them in Germany and we have to look out for him. He’s a very experienced guy with a decent amount of power. Just because he hasn’t had very many knockouts since 2007 when he was consistently knocking people out, since that point he has kind of slowed down on his knockouts, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have that punch, it’s the last thing to go.”
“There’s nothing I am going to be able to do in there that he hasn’t seen before, I just have to be better. So, you have to keep in the back of your mind, it’s not a guy you’re just going to blow out in a round, he has been stopped one time and it was due to a shoulder injury.”
Brant knows it will be tough to win a decision, but won’t get careless going for a knockout.
“I don’t concern myself with things out of my hands. If were there and we continue to catch him with big shots and he goes out, he goes out, but if we beat him for 12 rounds, Derrick and I did our job. The thought is in the back of my mind, chances are I am going to have to knock him out in his backyard or make him quit but I am not going to go out there and make uneducated decisions because I feel the need to do something.”
Brant added, “If I hurt him every round, Derrick will always say when we’re actually in the fight, if you hit him with something and you see him buckle a little bit, you see him blink funny, when I go back to the corner he will say hurt him every round, hurt him every round, they can only take so many.”
If Brant and James win big in Germany and beat the local hero in Braehmer, don’t expect Brant to be under the radar much longer and this could be the fight that locks down trainer of the year for James. But don’t expect either guy to worry too much about it as they just want to win and have more work to do as they have to get back to Dallas and get Spence Jr. ready for his fight with Lamont Peterson come January.
That’s what a team does.